President Vladimir Putin's Annual Address to the Federal Assembly on April 21 will go down as one of the most significant developments in recent history. He has drawn a red line in the sand that he does not want the West to cross. This will fundamentally change the rules of engagement between Russia and the West. The West can no longer unfairly blame Russia, humiliate it or provoke it without risking grave consequences.
The West has followed a policy of gradually nibbling at the area of Russian influence, and trying to encircle, contain and isolate Russia without risking a direct confrontation with Russia. This policy is based upon calculated and measured risks and predictable and proportionate responses. Putin, in one stroke, changed the rules of the game. Russia has gone on the offensive. If Russia perceives a threat to its security, then it will decide what should be the response. This response can be completely unpredictable and un-proportional as far as the West is concerned.
Putin seems to have deliberately emphasized the uncertainty of the response to keep the West on its toes. From now, if any country tries to trample on Russia's interests or threatens its security, then it better think about the worst scenario because Russia can go to any length. In the past, these countries felt that no matter what they do, the situation will always remain controllable and manageable like a friendly match. This has always been the West's hypocrisy and double dealing as far Russia is concerned. It never treated Russia as a friend but always expected Russia to play a friendly game with it.
Putin has finally broken the stalemate. Russia reserves the right to deal with its adversaries as it sees fit and Russia will not play the game by somebody else's rules. It will make its own rules. This is going to make the West extremely nervous and it has to fundamentally change its attitude and behavior toward Russia.
Putin has made it clear that Russia wants to act like a responsible member of the global community and wants to do its part and cooperate in the efforts to maintain world peace and make the world safe and secure for everybody. He also made it clear that Russia does not want to act like an aggressor or a bully. It wants to follow the norms of international law. Russia will not let any other country act as an aggressor and a bully or shatter the international law.
In the last two centuries, the Western countries have got used to having their way in the world. They made rules for the others that they did not follow themselves. However, times have changed. The Western countries do not have the economic or the military power to impose their will on the others particularly, on Russia and China. The bitter truth is that the combined overall power of Russia and China who have a strategic partnership now, exceeds the combined power of the West.
It is not easy to accept the new realities and the old habits are difficult to get rid of. Still, there is no substitute for accepting reality, no matter how painful it may be. Moreover, when you have two bad choices then you choose lesser of the two evils. Certainly, not accepting the reality is far more dangerous for the West and rest of the world.
Putin has left the door open for a dialogue and reasonable compromises to address the mutual as well as global issues and concerns. A summit between President Putin and President Joe Biden is possible in June. However, if such a summit has to accomplish something worthwhile then the US and the other Western countries have to change the way they have been treating Russia. They have to stop conspiring against Russia and stop unfairly blaming Russia. We can only expect something good coming out of the summit if there is a change of heart on the part of the Western countries. Otherwise, they should remember that Putin has drawn a red line in the sand and if they cross that, then they will be held accountable for their actions.
The time has come for the West to give up its arrogance and embrace the eastern value of humility. Arrogance leads to ignorance whereas humility is associated with knowledge. Western arrogance has done tremendous damage to the world in the last two centuries. The 21st century is East's century where there is no room for arrogance.
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